Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Soap.

My body wash promises me a 'Touch of Happiness'. My shampoo claims to invigorate my morning. My Coke Zero vows to keep me on the path of losing weight. Romantic movies would have me believe that my marriage should complete my life, that my husband will always buy me flowers and lay his coat over puddles for me to walk across safely. Special K cereal is sure to make me thin, and Revlon will make my lashes luxurious and long. Shea Butter is the next big solution for my wrinkles, and my Spanx will squish and squeeze me into a size 8...or so they say. American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance promise me fame, and who wouldn't want that!??! With all this help, I am the next big thing.

There's a little verse in Luke. It is tucked away between Christ's prophesies of the temple's destruction and His impending Crucifixion. This tiny little verse says so much, so sweetly, so succinctly.

By standing firm you will gain life.Luke 21:19

I get caught up on the promises of life here. My eyes wander to shiny things and promises of wealth, beauty, fame, and happiness. I forget my commitment to stand for Him. I often just stand for me.

In Matthew Jesus asks a question that no product or promise of earth can answer.

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  ~ Matthew 16:26

There is nothing wrong with my delightful orange body wash. I happen to like it. There IS something wrong with buying into the promises of earth for happiness and completeness. Nothing completes us like Christ, and if we spend all our energy on standing for what makes us happy then what is left for the one who offers us more than this life, more than shiny hair or soft skin? If all our time is wrapped up in the means of happiness in life. Often our focus is not on the end. Are the means worth the failure at the end?

What is worth your soul? Is your earthly pleasure and good times worth your soul?

Give up the fight for earthly winnings. Give up trying to fit in when maybe we shouldn't.

Stand firm and gain life.
       Say no to anything that pulls you away from your commitment to Him.

                       Do good.

                                       Be different.

                                                             Focus on holiness and not your personal happiness.

Gain life and stand firm.   
           Say yes to helping others, to worshiping more, to serving your community.

                     Be good.

                                      Look different.

                                                               Let your happiness grow from your holiness.

Why can't Christ be our all? This is what standing firm means: making Christ our all; making Christ our full-time occupation. All other endeavors are temporary, and I promise it will only fulfill you partially.

Only one can promise you eternity. Only one can promise you life. Stand firm and rely on that promise.

Monday, May 7, 2012

In Their Youth.

On Saturday evening I stumbled upon this verse:

May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace. Psalm 144:12

This is what I noticed.

Our sons in their youth should be like full grown plants. In their youth, our sons should provide like a full grown plant provides food for a family. In their youth, our sons should already have a maturity and a focus to provide for their family.

Our daughters, likewise, should be strong enough to hold up the home in their youth. They should be pillars of strength, strong enough to hold true even when winds blow and the rains come. Some pillars maintain their stature after thousands of years, and this is what the writer of Psalms dreams for his daughters in their youth.

My goal as a parent is to raise my children to be responsible. As much as my selfishness aches for my children to constantly need me (and they do right now), my job as a parent is to raise them so they do not need me, so they can stand on their own in every way. I believe this is supposed to happen sooner rather than later.

My goal as a parent is to raise my children to know the I don't want to wait for them to acquire this knowledge on their own. I take ownership of their spiritual maturity because more than any other dream I have for my children whether it be a vast education, marital bliss, professional success, or the scientific discovery of cancer's cure, I want my children to know their creator, to bow in humble thanks at their Savior's feet.

I believe this can happen in my children's youth. I pray it can. The choice is theirs to hold the hand of Jesus or to hold the hand of the world, but as long as I have breath I will love, I will pray and I will lead them toward the Savior. I have witnessed the other option, and I plead with the Lord daily that my children avoid it.

When Christ is the goal, then the sewing of wild oats is never acceptable. It may happen, but should not be the common accepted norm among Christians. We should aim higher for our children. They are worth the effort. We will set our children on the path of success in many ways, right? We force them to get up for school. We sign them up for every athletic endeavor. We encourage them to love God and country in scouts. We aim for our kids to be good people, good athletes, good students, and good loyal patriots. Do we aim for them to be spiritually their youth.

The psalmist would suggest that in their youth children can do strong amazing things. I hope and pray that the path I set my children on leads them to become pillars and full grown plants in their youth rather than consumers and pleasure seekers expecting the world to provide all needs. I hope and pray that the path I set my children on leads them to seek God above all else because He IS the provider of all things.

Father, protect my children. Please give me the words and wisdom to train my children in your ways. I cannot do this on my own. My failures discourage me. My inadequacies silence me. Give me the strength to reveal your love to my children. Please give my children the courage to love you in their youth. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Back in the Servant's Quarters.

I spent the greater part of my college career performing in musical theater. The stage was no stranger. I enjoyed it. As I've aged, the stage has started to scare me. Now I'm terrified of performing. Since I try to be painfully honest in this blog, I'll tell you that I don't miss the applause, the kudos, the congratulations. Who wouldn't?!? (Or maybe it's just me that thanks The Academy and the Hollywood Foreign Press a.k.a my bedroom mirror.)

While studying the book of Luke with my Tuesday bible study buddies, I've been struck that Christ so often reminds us of our place in His kingdom. Our Christ, our Savior, gave all so that we could be saved and enjoy the treasures of heaven, but until that time our place is at the feet of our Savior and at the feet of others as mere servants. Earthly accolades are not our goal. Comfortable accommodations are not our right. Rather, our comforts are huge blessings to be hospitably shared. Talents are not meant for our gain. Talents are meant to further the kingdom. Attention is for the Christ and the Creator alone.

We joked in our study this morning that rarely does a minister preach a sermon on a little passage in Luke 16. I wonder why. Perhaps we don't like being reminded of our station. Check out this little tidbit from Christ:

"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did as he was told to do?" 

Here's the closing clincher. Check this out:

"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We were unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"

There you go, preachers. Preach THAT sermon. Here's how it would go: "Church, DO YOUR JOB." Cue the alter call.

The question I ask myself here is: Do I expect kudos for simply doing my duty as a Christian?

Do we expect gratitude, attention, or accolades for sharing the gospel, for serving others, for teaching children's worship, for leading singing, for spiritual parenting, for living? Have we all absorbed this westernized entitlement attitude? Do we expect to have articles written up about our work or buildings named after us? Do we deserve our earthly blessings? I promise you, we definitely can never ever deserve our inheritance. Have we forgotten our mutual place in the servants quarters?

You see, while we are offered huge benefits from working in the kingdom, the truth is, earthly treasures and rampant unbridled applause from the earth are not our reward, and we shouldn't seek it. We are not entitled to earthly comforts and should not be out seeking attention for simply doing our job. We are to DO it. We are servants who serve because we owe the master BIG time, and we'll never be able to work off this debt.

When my serving days are done at the end of my earthly shift and I clock out to gain my reward, I hope to hear something from another parable, but probably from the same master...

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Narrow Door

"Unusual!" we call folks who make it in.
"Abnormal! Unrelenting! They never fit in!

The average of us just go with the pack.
The expected behavior is to stay on THIS track.

Odd for THAT person to be allowed in--
When the rest of us commit just a tiny sin.

To lie-- To cheat-- To steal--
Well, that's our common place meal!

Strange is the person who gives back.
Curious! He offers the rest of US slack.

Look at that odd ball! How he serves everyone else!
Why is he saying to avoid serving self?

That door is tiny! We'll never fit there!
By the looks of it, we must go through bare!

Stripped of our titles, our purses, our rules?
That door doesn't accept our treasured jewels!

We must look like the odd ball to fit through that gate.
We must hurry and change before it's too late.

Throw off all that is us and mirror the king.
Lay aside all our normal and change our routine.

Seek Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with care,
and enter to see the odd ball through there.

"Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to."  ~ Luke 13:24